Kyparissiotes: Decade 2.7

May 28, 2011

From John Kyparissiotes, Decades, PG 152, 769 B – 771 B.

Chapter Seven. Upon what basis, then, must we theologize, and out of what things?

Dionysius the Great, in chapter 7 of his On the Divine Names, says:

“In addition, we must examine how we know God, who is an object neither of intellectual nor of sensible perception, nor is absolutely any one of the things that are. We must examine, then, whether it is not true to say that we know God, not from his own nature (for that is unknown, and surpasses all reason and mind); but, from his ordering of all things that are, as being projected from himself, and as containing certain images and similitudes of his divine exemplars, we ascend to that which is beyond all, as far as lies in our power, by a way and by order, namely, by way of abstracting all things, and by his pre-eminence over all things, and by his being the cause of all things.”

[2.7.1] Ps.-Dionysius, De divinis nominibus VII.3; PG 3, 869 C - 872 A.

And Gregory the Theologian, in his Second Theological Oration, says:

“Thus reason that is from God, that is implanted in everything from the beginning and is the first law in us, and is bound up in all, leads us up to God through visible things.”

[2.7.2] Gregory of Nazianzus, or. 28.16; PG 26, 48 B.

And again, the same author says that what is divine is

“only adumbrated by the mind, and that very dimly and scantily, not out of those things he is in himself, but out of those things that are around him, one image being got from one source and another from another, and combined into some sort of presentation of the truth.”

[2.7.3] Gregory of Nazianzus, or. 38.7; PG 36, 317 B-C = or. 45.3; PG 36, 625 C.

And those who, after him, expound this passage say that

“God is not understood from those things which he is in himself, that is, from his substance, but from the things which are around him, that is, from the creatures.”

[2.7.4] Not found; but cf. Meletius Medicus, De natura hominis, ed. J. A. Cramer, Anecdota Graeca e codd. manuscriptis bibliothecarum Oxoniensium, vol. 3 (Oxford 1836; repr. Amsterdam 1963), p. 143: "Since 'No one has seen God at any time,' that is to say, according to his substance -- not from those things which he is in himself, but from those things which are around him. But the person who says that he has not seen God's substance does not confess that he does not know God; but he knows him out of his activities (or, energies, ἐνεργειῶν): as, that he is all-powerful," etc. And a little further down: "But, as for us, we confess that God exists, and we say that we recognize him out of his works; but, as for approaching his substance, we do not make it our business to do this."

And St. Maximus, in his Centuries on Theology, says that:

“[God] can in no way whatsoever be comprehended by anything that is; rather, he can only be known by faith; and this [is a knowledge] that he is, from the things that have been made; it is not a knowledge of him in respect of what he is.”

[2.7.5] Not yet found.

And again, the same father, in Century Three:

“That which exists, in an absolute sense, is known from that which exists in a non-absolute sense. It is not by the relation [it has] towards them that it is known that it exists — for how shall anyone in any way ever bring together what exists absolutely with things which do not exist absolutely? — but, in its incomparable superiority in respect of cause, it is known in an unknown way, since we can in no other way [know] what is beyond substance than by the obscure claim about it — that is, the mere claim that it exists — being demonstrated out of the things that are.”

[2.7.6] Not yet found.

And again, the same author, in the second century of his sayings on Love, in chapter 27:

“When you intend to speak about divinity, you should not seek for reasons according to [what it is] in itself, for no human mind can ever find this, nor can the mind of any other being that comes after God; but look carefully, so far as you are able, to those things that are around him: such as, the reasons concerning eternity and infinity and indefinability, and concerning goodness and power and wisdom, and concerning his abilities in creating and providing for and judging beings. For it is the person who finds out the reasons for these things, even if only to a limited extent, who is a great theologian among men.”

[2.7.7] Not yet found.

And again, the same author, in chapter 71 in his fourth Century:

“From the things that are, we know the cause of the things that are. And, from the diversity of the things that are, we are taught the enhypostatic Wisdom of He Who Is. And, from the natural motion of the things that are, we learn the enhypostatic Life of He Who Is, the life-creating power of the things that are, the Holy Spirit.”

[2.7.8] Not yet found.

From these things it becomes clear that God is known only from those things which are around him, which are the creatures, and that it is from this source also that he is theologized. Or, in other words, from images and likenesses of his divine exemplars, and those things which earlier were described as mirrors and enigmas. And so that no one may be at a loss to know how things which have the nature of images and likenesses and of things lacking in the real truth of being are fully suitable [bases] for theologizing of God, and lest anyone should go looking for greater things: it is necessary also, in the present investigation, to demonstrate that even those theologians who are most eminent do not go beyond that theology which is based upon the creation.

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